US-South Korean War Games threaten to inflame Korean Peninsula
By Peter Symonds
January 19, 2014
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are again set to escalate as the US and South Korean militaries prepare to hold their annual joint war games—Key Resolve and Foal Eagle. The former is a computer-based simulation running for two weeks from late February, focussed on “crisis management” and aimed against North Korea. The latter is a massive mobilisation, which last year involved 10,000 US military personnel and up to 200,000 South Korean troops in a range of drills extending over two months.
As in previous years, the North Korean regime demanded the exercises be called off. A spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea on Wednesday declared that “powder-reeking war exercises are being waged, vitiating the hope-filled atmosphere at the beginning of the new year.” He called on the US and South Korea to stop the drills, warning that they might “push the situation on the peninsula and the north-south ties to a catastrophe.”
At the same time, however, North Korea’s National Defence Commission issued a statement on Thursday proposing that the two Koreas adopt a moratorium on “slander.” It stated: “We propose formally to the authorities of the South that on the occasion of the Lunar New Year holiday beginning on January 30, both sides take substantive steps of halting actions that provoke and criticise the other.” The commission also indicated it would support South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s call last week for reunions of families separated by the Korean War, if the war games were halted.
South Korea rejected the conciliatory gesture, as well as any suggestion that it would cancel joint exercises with the US. Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do demanded that North Korea take “practical” actions for nuclear disarmament if it wanted peace on the peninsula. Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok warned: “Should North Korea make a military provocation using our regular drills against contingencies as an excuse, our military will mercilessly retaliate.”
Last year’s US-South Korean exercises dangerously inflamed the Korean Peninsula, which has long been a flashpoint for war in Asia. In the wake of harsher US-led sanctions following a North Korean nuclear test, the Pyongyang regime made a series of belligerent, but empty threats to wage war against South Korea and the US.